It’s the 99th year of NFL football. Buffalo kicks off its 59th season this Sunday. And as usual, there’s no shortage of fascinating news and notes about the Bills and the league in general heading into the new season.
Here are some of the things Bills fans can keep an eye on this Sunday on Kickoff Weekend:
1. PETERMAN LATEST QB TO START A SEASON FOR THE BILLS
It’s a list that includes the names of Drew Bledsoe, Doug Flutie, Todd Collins and others. On Sunday, Nathan Peterman becomes the 10th quarterback to start a season under center for the Bills, since the Jim Kelly era ended in 1996.
It’s a job he won fair and square in preseason. And as the national narrative on Peterman focuses on his rough first start last November in Los Angeles, the Bills know him better. And Buffalo’s decision makers say they always thought Peterman has what it takes.
“We in this building never lost faith in who Nate is,” General Manager Brandon Beane said this week on One Bills Live. “And I know outside just people wrote him off even in this town and obviously nationally and I know when we said it would be a quarterback competition, most people were saying that it's a quarterback competition between AJ and Josh and they kept leaving Nate out of there”
“When we left in June we felt like Nate still should start with the 1s as we rolled out in August,” Beane continued. “He was steady-Eddy. He’s not flashy, but he really does a good job of getting the play call in, making sure receivers are lined up, making sure that he gets up to the line of scrimmage in time to survey the defense.”
When head coach Sean McDermott was asked this week why he chose to go with Peterman, he cited his “mental toughness and command of the offense.” Both qualities figure to be tested Sunday in Baltimore.
2. DABOLL’S OFFENSE FRONT AND CENTER
Brian Daboll is back as an NFL offensive coordinator for the first time in six years. He did the job last year at Alabama, but Daboll’s last coordinator job in the league was 2012 in Kansas City.
Nathan Peterman’s ‘command of the offense,’ as cited above by Sean McDermott, will be on display this week. And Bills fans have to wondering exactly what that offense will look like.
They’re hoping it looks like the multi-formational, up tempo attack that Buffalo started the preseason with against Carolina. Peterman hit his first nine passes of the game, the Bills moved 85 yards for a touchdown on their first possession and kept the Panthers off balance with a variety of personnel and looks. And they did it seamlessly.
In the first half of that first preseason game, the Bills scored on three of their four possessions. It was offensive efficiency that never re-appeared in Buffalo’s preseason—maybe by design.
This week, Daboll and the Bills take the wraps off their regular season offensive approach. And Bills players say they expect the new coordinator to mix it up.
“I think it’s gonna change by game,” tight end Logan Thomas said on One Bills Live. “Daboll does a great job of seeing the field, seeing matchups and he’s gonna get us good matchups all across the field --- how he thinks we can win and personnel against other people how he thinks we can win. So, we have full faith in Daboll I know he’s got a role for all of us and we just have to be 100% into our role.
3. BOUNCE BACK SEASON FOR BALTIMORE’S QB?
Baltimore QB Joe Flacco started his first game as a rookie, and he’s still there. Sunday marks his 11th season as the Ravens QB.
But Flacco is looking for a much better 2018. He was dead last among NFL starters last year in passing yards per attempt (5.72). Since leading the Ravens to a championship in the 2012 season, Flacco and the Ravens have won 38 games and lost 36 and they’ve missed the playoffs the last two years.
Ravens observers, like former Baltimore tight end Dennis Pitta, says the addition of some free agent wide receivers will go a long way towards bringing Flacco back.
“I know Joe didn't have a lot of help last year and some of the weapons around him didn't quite contribute or didn't quite reach the potential that they had hoped they would reach,” Pitta said. “But I think they certainly found some of those pieces--these three new wide receivers. Each of them – Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead and John Brown, have had tremendous training camps and off-seasons. I think they are guys that Joe now has a certain level of trust with, chemistry with. We will see how it all plays out Sunday, but I think they are all excited about the weapons they have now.”
4. NFL DEBUT FOR BILLS NEW PUNTER
Corey Bojorquez says he’s been dreaming about punting in the NFL since his high school days in Southern California. The dream comes true for the 21-year old rookie Sunday, when he lines up and punts for the Bills.
Bojorquez was claimed off waivers by the Bills last weekend, after being released by New England. He never got to kick in preseason, with the Patriots committed to Ryan Allen. But Bojorquez says he’ll be ready to punt and hold for placement kicks, which he considers just as important as his punts.
5. NO CHARM IN “CHARM CITY” ON BILLS LAST VISIT
The Bills opened their season in Baltimore just two years ago, and it wasn’t pretty. They put up 160 yards of offense, went three for 13 on third downs, and managed just one touchdown – a one-yard run by LeSean McCoy. Buffalo lost the 2016 opener in lackluster fashion, a 13-7 defeat.
6. DIVISION RIVALS READY TO GO ALSO
Bills fans learned last December how to follow their team’s big rivals and potential playoff contenders. Why not start in week one this year?
The defending AFC Champion Patriots open at home Sunday at 1 pm against Houston. The Patriots have won eight of their last 9 home openers on Kickoff Weekend. But they go up against a solid Texans defense and New England’s receiving corps is depleted, with the departure of Danny Amendola and the four-game suspension being served by Julian Edelman.
Patriots wide receiver Chris Hogan told the Boston Herald, no problem.
“I really don’t listen to the outside and what people think, “Hogan said. “I think we have a great room, I’m really excited about the guys we have, we have a lot of explosive playmakers in our room.”
The Dolphins welcome Ryan Tannehill back to the lineup Sunday at 1 pm, when they host Tennessee. Tannehill is back for his first game since December 11, 2016, missing last year with a torn ACL.
And the Jets wait until Monday night to put 21-year old Sam Darnold on the field in Detroit against the Lions. Darnold is the youngest quarterback to start a season opening game in the NFL’s Super Bowl era.